As someone who has been very introverted their entire live, alone time is where I seek refuge. I need a certain amount of time per week where I sit in my room watching Netflix, doing homework, painting, etc. I just need to be by myself – no friends or family, just me. However over quarantine, I had reached the point of being by my myself too much. I had gone days without having a real conversation with my family and had been spending way too much time doing my homework in my room (thank you online classes!).
Quarantine made me realize that being around people – talking, laughing, crying, even just walking by a complete stranger – is more important to our mental health than I previously thought. I thought quarantine was going to be a breeze, I thought I was good at being by myself alone in my room. But I quickly realized how much I missed laughing at stupid jokes that only made sense to my friends and I. How much I missed thanking the stranger who held the door for me as I walked into the building. How much I missed smiling at the Wildcat Transit drivers as I got on and off stops around campus. I missed people, and I never thought I would.
I literally don’t remember the months of March-June. I wish I could tell you things I did during those months, but I quite literally cannot. It was the same day over and over again – wake up, eat, homework, eat, sleep. There was no variation, just the same motions repeated like it was a bad dream. I slipped into a state where I found no excitement in anything I used to, didn’t eat, slept a lot, and had no motivation to get things done. All I could think about was how we all took the normalcy we were so used to before March 13 for granted. We took cookouts, concerts, beach days, classes, literally any form of medium to large sized gathering for granted. And we still don’t know when we’re going to get that same feeling of normalcy back, or if we ever will.
Now with being back at school, I get to have some of those things back, and I can slowly feel myself being pulled from the dark abyss quarantine me was in. I get to laugh at random jokes with my friends again, and I get to thank the stranger that held my door. I still can’t smile at the Wildcat Transit drivers thanks to masks, but now I say “hi” and “thank you” so they know I still appreciate them! But being back at school, I get to be around people again, even if it has to be socially distanced. These times have made me realize that every person we encounter in our lives have an impact on us even if we don’t realize it at the time. Interactions with friends, family, and even strangers all play a part in how we feel and live, and I will never take that for granted ever again.
So the next time you’re walking into a building, hold the door for someone. Go get coffee with a friend. Hug your family. Because you don’t know the next time those opportunities are going to be abruptly taken away from you.